LL Cool J is back in the rap game 

click to enlarge After spending recent years pursuing acting, LL Cool J recently released his 13th album, “Authentic.” - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • After spending recent years pursuing acting, LL Cool J recently released his 13th album, “Authentic.”

LL Cool J may be one of the elder statesmen of rap, rhyming since his 1985 platinum debut, but he has been out of the game recently, focusing on acting, starring in films and on “NCIS: Los Angeles,” and hosting the Grammy Awards.

He has no intention of giving up either pursuit.

“I just didn’t want to abandon my music,” the rapper-actor says. “If I didn’t do it now, I may have never gotten to it.”

That’s why he recorded “Authentic,” his 13th album, ended this year’s Grammys with a performance, and has returned to the road this summer for the Kings of the Mic Tour with fellow icons Public Enemy, Ice Cube and De La Soul. The tour swings through the Shoreline Amphitheatre on Saturday.

“My motivation for doing music was not contractual, it was not financial — it was purely just my love of music,” he says. “Acting is great, and when I have time, I’ll get out and do my music ... and give people that side of my world.”

For “Authentic,” LL Cool J teamed up with a group of artists not traditionally associated with rap: Eddie Van Halen; Earth, Wind and Fire; Fitz and the Tantrums; Seal; Brad Paisley; and others.

“I grew up with all of their music, and I feel like my fans have, too,” he says. “People have diverse tastes. Why not make records with all those people I respect?”

LL Cool J purposefully stayed away from the traditional hip-hop play of including new, hot names in the genre.

“I don’t think that hip-hop artists have to be relegated to trying to reinvent themselves as teenagers every two years,” he says. “I want to own who I am at this point in my life.”

Another collaboration with Paisley created controversy. “Accidental Racist” from Paisley’s new album “Wheelhouse” advocates setting aside built-up hatred from slavery in favor creating dialogue about race relations.

But some view its lines, such as “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains,” as racist.

Yet LL Cool J thinks a small group is making a big noise in complaint, and expects most people to eventually get the message.

“There’s a fine line between trivializing something and saying don’t judge a book by its cover, and I think people see what they want to see,” he says. “It would make no sense for me, as a black man, to trivialize something that was so horrific for my ancestors. It’s like boiling water to sit down and eat your own heart.”


Kings of the Mic Tour
With LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, De La Soul

Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $25 to $123
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.livenation.com

About The Author

Roman Gokhman

Roman Gokhman

Roman Gokhman has been writing about the music scene in the Bay Area since 2006, with a focus on indie rock, world music and the local scene. He's also seen U2 live more than 50 times and expects to add to that total in 2014, if their next album finally comes out.
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